Social Networking Sites "Like" the 2012 Election
Veronica Jauriqui is Special Projects Manager at the Norman Lear Center.
That ranty Facebook friend? You know, the one whose incessant political tirades you find just a tad offensive? Maybe you just think he's unpleasant. Or you've considered the ultimate death knell of the "unfriend" button.
It turns out your friend might have been on to something.
In a study released last week by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, about 1 in 6 people said they had "changed their views about a political issue" after reading about it on a social networking site (SNS). Though even Pew acknowledges this as a "modest" influence at best, you can't deny the necessity of a social media component to any political action campaign.
It's been four years since then-candidate Barack Obama and his crack team of social media strategists leveraged the power of SNS to connect with young and previously ignored constituencies, raising millions of dollars and winning the election in the process.
At the time, I was a graduate student at USC's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and had the chance to study the presidential election and the unprecedented role social media was beginning to play in the campaign. My study was small and qualitative, representing a handful of young potential voters and how they connected to candidates and issues online and in social networks. It was a chicken-vs-egg study. Can you build engagement online? Or do the already engaged flock to SNS to spread their political messages? The results showed that those who were already politically active and motivated used social networks as another means of spreading their message. Engagement offline begets engagement online, and not vice versa.